S4C is, and always has been, an independent organisation, with a unique remit, dedicated to providing a high-quality television service in the Welsh language. This independence has allowed us to compete and collaborate with a wide range of partners in the content industry, enabling us to promote and support a whole new sector of the economy in Wales and make a crucial contribution to Welsh culture. In Wales, where the number of national media providers is small, we make a vital contribution towards plurality of voice.
In the legislation establishing S4C, the service is referred to as ‘Sianel Pedwar Cymru’ (S4C) and the body providing the service is referred to as ‘the S4C Authority’, or ‘the Authority’, which effectively acts as its Board.
Currently the S4C Authority’s key responsibilities include:
S4C’s governance structures and responsibilities have evolved since our launch in 1982 in line with changes in legislation, regulatory responsibilities, services provided and best practice developments.
At the beginning, members of the Authority were appointed as representatives of the governing bodies of other broadcasters and regulators, in order to give the new channel, the best possible chance of success. Some years later, the legislative transfer of many regulatory responsibilities to Ofcom meant that the concept of a self-regulating Authority became less important. Following the decision that funding for S4C would be provided primarily from the TV licence Fee, an Operating Agreement between S4C and the BBC Trust was put in place in 2012/13, with the BBC Trustee for Wales becoming a member of the Authority.
The regulatory relationship with Ofcom already exists and is well established over many years.
The presence of the BBC Trustee for Wales as a member of the S4C Authority during the 2013-2017 period has been valuable in ensuring a good understanding between S4C and the BBC in the context of a new funding relationship.
The BBC will shortly move to a unitary board model of governance and accountability and this will require modifications to the relationship between the two broadcasters.
There is agreement between us and the BBC, as there is a major difference between the functions of the BBC Trust - a nonexecutive, regulatory body – and those of a unitary board, that there should no longer be a requirement for there to be a BBC representative on the S4C Board/Authority.
It will, however, be important for there to continue to be a strong link between S4C and the BBC both at UK and Wales levels, to ensure collaboration and cooperation to deliver the greatest possible benefits for viewers.
Formal requirements should be put in place regarding frequency of minuted meetings, between the Chair of S4C and the Chair of the BBC, and between the S4C Chair and the BBC Board member for Wales, in addition to appropriate provisions for continuation of the Joint Partnership Board between the S4C and BBC Wales executives.
With the BBC’s new structures coming into force in April 2017, it has been necessary to discuss with the BBC new accountability arrangements for S4C’s receipt of TV Licence Fee income as of that date, prior to the commencement of the S4C Review. We anticipate that the outcome will be a new agreement which will stand in place of the 2013-17 Operating Agreement. Discussions are at an advanced stage.
We recognise the opportunity the review offers to take a fresh look at all aspects of S4C’s accountability, regulation, governance and funding, and look forward to participating in discussions on these matters. As S4C moves from being a Public Service Broadcaster to being a Public Service Media Content provider, there will be a number of core functions relating to the provision of the service that will continue.
Specifically, there will be a need to:
In this document, our intention is not to put forward a fixed corporate view as to the best structures for S4C’s future, but to identify those elements which we believe to be fundamental to support our ambition for the S4C service of the future and its role in the lives of people in Wales, the UK and throughout the world.
S4C suggests that the elements are as follows: